3 Things to Remember When You Feel Like God Is Far Away
There are songs, hymns, and books that tell us how God is our friend. But what do we do when it doesn’t feel like God is close?
Friends often identify in some way with each other, but “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth” (Westminster Shorter Catechism 4); and humans are finite, sinful, weak, changeable, and often get into foolish situations. How do we feel close to a God who is so very different? When God feels far away, remember these three things about the Persons of the Trinity.
1. Jesus is both true God and true man, and he sympathizes with our weaknesses.
The people of Israel wandered in the wilderness with the tabernacle and the cloud of God’s presence (Exod. 40: 34-38). Yet, the people had to remain at a distance from the tabernacle and God’s presence. Both John 1:1 and John 1:14 teach us that Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt, or “tabernacled,” with us. Jesus is both God and human, but he didn’t come as a worldly prince lording it over his subjects; rather, he came as a suffering servant (Isa. 53:1-12).
Experiencing pain, sorrow, rejection, loss, and death, Jesus identified with suffering humankind as he served and lay down his life to save his people (Isa. 53:5; John 10:11-15). Jesus traveled dusty roads, and experienced thirst, fatigue, and sorrow. He prayed for his people (John 17:9) and remains our High Priest, interceding for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 4:15; 7:25). He is indeed our best friend (John 15:15).
2. The Holy Spirit is your always-present Helper, Gift, Comforter, and Seal.
While Jesus has ascended into the presence of God the Father and intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25), he has also ensured that we would not be left alone. Jesus asked that the Father send to believers the Holy Spirit, who is called “another Helper” (John 14:16-18). The Holy Spirit is a gift from the Father and the Son to God’s people (John 14:26; Acts 2:38; 5:32). The Holy Spirit teaches, convicts, and comforts the hearts of believers (John 14:26; Acts 9:31). As Christians read the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit illuminates the word of God to the hearts of believers so that they can understand it.
The Spirit also convicts Christians of sin and encourages them unto righteousness (Gal. 5:22-25; Eph. 4:20-22) and reminds Christians that they are children of God even when the devil accuses them of guilt (Rom. 8:15-16). During those times when knowing what to pray is difficult, the Holy Spirit prays to the Father on our behalf (Rom. 8:26). The Holy Spirit is also our seal. A seal was often used to mark an item as the authentic possession of another. The Holy Spirit is the seal for all believers that we belong to God our Father forever (Eph. 1:13; Eph. 4:30).
3. Your heavenly Father has provided permanent salvation and righteousness for you in Christ.
It is so easy to look at our own sin and weakness and be discouraged. Have you ever thought that you weren’t worthy to be a Christian, or that you weren’t a worthy friend of Jesus? The Scriptures reflect the character of God, which is perfect and pure (Ps. 19). How can we ever measure up? Without Christ, we can never obey God’s commands, and in this life we will always struggle with disobedience. It was the will of the Father to save people through Christ (John 6:40). God’s plan of salvation included Christ fulfilling all righteousness on behalf of believers. In Christ you are forgiven (Eph. 1:7) and have the righteousness of Christ credited to your account (Rom. 3:21-25).
We receive Christ’s righteousness like the high priest Joshua received clean robes (Zech. 3:1-5). Satan was ready to accuse Joshua, and Joshua was indeed dressed in filthy garments, which represent uncleanness and sin. But God told his angels to remove the filthy clothing and dress Joshua with clean, pure garments—ones that represent purity and righteousness. Similarly, even on your worst day, you can be certain that you are forgiven and clothed in the righteousness of Christ, seen as a child of God, and that the love of God will never leave you (Rom. 8:39).
So when you feel alone and distant from God, don’t listen to the dark and doubting thoughts, but remember and meditate on the truth. Remember that all the Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are intimately involved in your life. Meditate on the work of Christ for you, the presence of your Helper, the Holy Spirit, and that God the Father sees you as righteous in Christ. God is always near, and you are always loved.
Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves